On 30 June the CPSU and Services Australia appeared in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) after the CPSU lodged a dispute with Services Australia. The union believes that Services Australia is not applying the new Casual Conversion provisions of the Fair Work Act appropriately.
The FWC has directed Services Australia to provide the CPSU and the Commission with the process it proposes to apply to casuals. This provides much-needed transparency, because so far Services Australia has not answered the union’s questions about how it intends to apply the new laws.
The FWC is also requiring Services Australia to attend a conciliation conference on 23 July. This is an important step because it means that as an employer, the Commonwealth has to come clean about how it intends to treat its long-term casuals under the new laws.
This dispute has the potential to affect all APS casuals, no matter which agency you work for. For more information on how different casuals are affected, click here or read below.
The FWC’s role is to try to get things back on track. It has directed Services Australia and the CPSU to take the following next steps:
By 9 July, Services Australia must provide the FWC and the CPSU with an outline of the process it proposes to use to apply the Casual Conversion provisions to its workforce, including timeframes for action.
Why is this important? It’s a big step forward that the FWC is requiring Services Australia to be clear about what it intends to do. At first Services Australia said that it did not have to apply the new laws to its workforce. Then they admitted this wasn’t right. Casuals deserve to know where Services Australia stands and whether it intends to conduct a “tick and flick” assessment instead of doing the right thing and creating pathways to permanency for its very large casual workforce.
By 16 July, the CPSU must respond to Services Australia’s proposed process and timeframes for action.
Why is this important? If the union doesn’t agree that Services Australia’s plan is right, then the union has an opportunity to point out problems to Services Australia and the FWC.
Services Australia and the CPSU must participate in a further conciliation conference in the FWC on 23 July.
Why is this important? This gives the FWC an opportunity to try to resolve the issues, and bring the position of Services Australia and the CPSU closer together so that there are real outcomes for APS casuals.
The FWC will require the attendance of the Australian Public Service Commissioner or his nominee at the conciliation conference on 23 July.
Why is this important? Services Australia keeps saying “it is waiting for APSC advice”. It has been saying this for some time. Unfortunately, there are obligations it must comply with before 27 September, and this advice cannot wait any longer. The APSC will be required to attend the conciliation conference and explain its advice to the FWC.
Update 20 July 2021: Following the issue of these Directions, the APSC has since released its advice and the Commissioner will no longer be required to attend the conciliation conference. We return to the FWC on Friday 23 July.
What does the union say APS agencies should be doing?
The union has proposed the following steps:
- Agencies should identify long term casual roles that meet the criteria under the new laws.
- Those roles should be advertised.
- Applicants should be limited to existing APS employees so that existing employees on insecure contracts have a strong chance at winning them.
Although the CPSU has been disappointed with the approach of Services Australia so far, the CPSU remains hopeful that APS agencies and the Government will do the right thing, and create pathways to permanency for APS casuals.
What can you do?
- Stay informed: If you are an APS casual and you haven’t already, make sure you have signed up for advice and support
- Join the CPSU: By standing together, we can win more secure employment in the APS. If you’re not yet a member, join online now.
I am a casual at an APS agency
- If you are a casual employee directly employed by an APS agency such as Services Australia or the ATO, then you are affected by the new laws.
- In this case, the APS agency you work for has an obligation to apply the new laws to you.
I am a fixed term employee at an APS agency
- If you are not a casual employee, but engaged as a fixed term employee (sometimes called “non-ongoing”), then the new casual conversion provisions of the Fair Work Act do not apply to you, because the new laws apply to casual employees only.
- While the new laws don’t apply, the CPSU is campaigning here for more ongoing jobs in the APS that both casuals and fixed term employees have access to.
I am a casual employee at an APS agency but employed by a labour hire company
- If you are a casual employee working at an APS agency but employed by a labour hire company, then you are affected by the new laws.
- In this case, it is your labour hire employer that has an obligation to apply the new laws to you.
- That means if you meet the criteria under the laws and are offered permanency, it would be a permanent role with your labour hire company, not the APS agency.
- We know many of our members would like pathways to an ongoing role in the APS. You can see more about what we are doing to secure more permanent jobs in the APS here.